Council leaders speak out on chancellor’s ‘unfair’ fund allocation

Pic: Christopher Bill

The council leaders of Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney have joined forces with nine other counterparts to demand transparency for the Treasury’s allocation of a £4.8 billion infrastructure regeneration fund.

They claimed that deprived areas have been ignored in favour of more privileged ones.

The letter, dated March 8, criticised Chancellor Rishi Sunak for favouring his own constituency in Richmondshire as well as the Conservative constituency of Derbyshire Dales, both of which are in the first priority group to receive funding.

Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham, John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, and Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, were among those who signed the letter.

Egan tweeted :“Lewisham is the 35th most deprived area in England, but is only in the second round of funding from the so-called ‘Levelling Up Fund’.”

“We’ve written to @Rishisunak to ask why have we’ve been de-prioritised for funding whilst richer areas, such as his own, are prioritised?”

12 deprived areas

The £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, which runs until 2025, targets to fund places in Great Britain with the most significant need for infrastructure improvements, measured by the needs for economic recovery and growth, improved transport connectivity, and the need for regeneration.  

Areas assigned priority one classification were deemed to have ‘the highest level of identifiable need’ and their funding bids have a higher probability of success. 

The letter has also been signed by leaders from nine other councils which include Brent Council, Ealing Council, Enfield Council, Islington Council, Greenwich Council, Haringey Council, Lambeth Council, Southwark Council, and Waltham Forest Council.

Despite being some of the most deprived areas in London and the UK, none of the 12 areas has received first priority classification for the Levelling Up Fund.

In comparison, areas less deprived than two-thirds of Great Britain like Newark, Sherwood and Forest of Dean have been allocated category-one priority, while Hackney South and Shoreditch, measured at the bottom 10% of overall deprivation has received a category 2 priority for the fund. 

The council leaders said: “After more than 10 years of Government austerity, which has seen our core budgets slashed by more than half, this funding could make a real difference to our areas. We ask that for the sake of transparency the treasury releases a full breakdown of how the priority criteria for the so-called ‘Levelling Up Fund’. 

Despite being part of the most prosperous cities in the world our areas face significant levels of deprivation. Our communities have been some of the hardest hit by COVID-19, which has exacerbated inequalities further.

The 12 council leaders

On 11 March, the method for the Levelling Up Fund’s priority selection revealed that it had failed to account for indicators of deprivation like income, levels of crime and health, instead prioritising areas based on rates of work productivity and ‘average journey times to employment centres’ by transport. 

Selection considerations to determine the priority of areas to bid and receive the fund have been published as 50% for the need for economic recovery and growth”, 25% for the need for improved transport connectivity and 25% as the need for regeneration. 

Critics expressed their confusion on social media as to why the methodology was not put out with the initial fund category announcement, as well as the lack of referencing the government’s overall deprivation index. 

In a tweet, Egan said: “A ‘Levelling Up Fund’ that ignores the most deprived areas such as Lewisham will only entrench inequality” 

Glanville, the directly elected Labour & Co-operative Mayor of Hackney said: “Levelling-up areas in the North of England shouldn’t mean levelling-down London and ignoring the needs of people in Hackney. 

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